CUYAHOGA FALLS — A teacher who gave eighth-graders at Roberts Middle School an "ice breaker" assignment that stirred debate "had a letter placed" in their personnel file, said Superintendent Todd Nichols.
Nichols declined to describe the nature of the letter and a copy was not available at press time.
The assignment, "Whom to Leave Behind," tasks students with ranking passengers "from 1 to 12 based on those who you feel are most deserving to make the trip." Students were tasked with choosing eight out of the 12 passengers to board a space ship, with Earth being "doomed for destruction." The exercise was meant to foster a discussion of diversity and featured characters with various personnel traits including race, sexual orientation and religion, among others.
During the Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Board member David Martin asked if there were policies that could have prevented the incident, which elicited strong responses on social media, some speaking in favor of the assignment and some saying it was not age appropriate.
"I believe the intent was to break the ice, and have some discussions on the stereotypes that are out there," Martin said. "I have run into people who thought this was not age appropriate, I have run into people who thought the descriptions of the people were bad, and I have run into people who didn’t mind the assignment. I don’t mind controversial assignments; it allows people to find common ground. But this assignment came from a college assignment."
Nichols said there are policies in place about assignments.
"It’s impossible for every assignment to be scrutinized before they go out," Nichols said. "We need to follow those pieces [of policy] we have in place. We need to scrutinize what we put in front of the kids. That said, the intent was wholesome, and to a degree we have to have these discussions. Our kids are exposed to a lot more than we ever were."
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC